Doctor of Medicine and Doctor of Ministry

If the clergy looked upon the convert in the light in which a doctor looks upon his pa­tient, I feel sure a different approach would often be used, and perhaps a larger patient list might be brought to our churches.

By J. DEWITT FOX, M.D., Wadsworth General Hospital, Los Angeles, California

Not all are doctors of medicine. But all physicians strive to collaborate with doctors of ministry; that is, our preach­ers. If the clergy looked upon the convert in the light in which a doctor looks upon his pa­tient, I feel sure a different approach would often be used, and perhaps a larger patient list might be brought to our churches.

Because pastors and physicians should rightly operate as a team in helping patients to see their way through the maze of error and confusion that exists in the world today, it might be profitable to remind doctors of medi­cine how they can refer patients to their col­leagues of ministry ; and ministers can relate themselves to assist physicians most advantageously.

Approximately seven of every ten patients who come to a doctor's office do not suffer from organic disease alone but have superimposed some mental problem which gives rise to some functional disorder. The medical doctor is usu­ally able to diagnose and treat the organic ill, but the functional one may require many a long and tedious interview before the true source of worry and frustration can be unearthed. Be­cause the physician's time is at a premium, he often neglects this important phase of treat­ment, and the patient leaves his office unrelieved and uncomforted.

It is here that the clergy can render valuable service to the doctor and the patient. The pas­tor who is trained to do counseling in mental problems is the one most likely to solve this type of patient problem. Surely a pastor's time could be profitably invested in just such heart-to-heart counseling and unburdening. During the process of unsnarling a skein of mental knots, the counselor can gracefully lead the pa­tient into the hands of the Great Physician, who alone offers the real answer to such ills. He can give the patient an insight into his problem by merely listening to him. As the pa­tient expounds his troubles, the mental cathar­sis thus administered will relieve the depressed spirits, the anxiety, the tension, of a distraught patient. Meantime the patient has acquired a high esteem for the pastor and his methods of giving the truth.

Most of the so-called psychoneurotic patients that physicians see today suffer basically from an introspective, selfish, guilty, sore personality. The doctor of ministry who gives the patient a new outlook on life will indirectly help bring him to the resurgence of conversion, or new birth, which is the aim of all theologians. By the correct rapport of quiet, attentive listening, the pastor-counselor can tacitly lead the patient toward God. He can convert the patient from an introvert to an extrovert. He may substitute into the patient's being a selflessness in place of the selfishness which is at the bottom of his illness. By such interviews, during which the patient may unburden his woes, worries, and remorse, the pastor can reveal the Ideal Image, Christ, which the patient should establish in his mind as an example. The pastor's knowledge of psychology will be of inestimable value in helping the patient transfer his guilt to Christ, and then identify his life with that of the Ideal Image.

The doctor of ministry is in a unique position. Some patients resent the serving of a religious menu along with medi­cal advice. They may feel that their doctor is usurping the prerogative of their clergyman. However, they willingly accept the prudent counsel of a consecrated, sympathetic minister on matters of religious or emotional conflicts. In many cases it is not the physician's place to preach but it is his place to live a life which points toward the Great Preacher. A doctor cannot be a specialist in Biblical doctrine and medical matters at the same time. Rather, his place is to acquire the esteem of the patient by a pleasing personality, a Christian life, and pro­fessional skill. By constantly being alert for the patient who will profit by a referral to a doctor of ministry, he can gently guide new converts into the church through the office of a pastoral counselor.

The patient response to such a personal in­terest is always one of overflowing gratitude. For only by a full ministration to the physical and spiritual can the individual be reclaimed as a whole from a decadent and sin-sick life. By such guidance his dull and torpid life may become one of boundless spiritual inspiration. The interlocked body-mind-and-soul trinity which may make up an individual is as insol­uble as the divine Trinity which conceived and created it. Yet today there is a tendency to treat the disease and not the patient, to treat the body and not the mind, or the mind with little regard for the soul.

God-given physiological laws are being transgressed by many doctors in a futile attempt to give the patient immediate comfort through drug therapy alone. Nervousness is combated with sedatives rather than by finding the crux of the problem and curing the symptom. Symp­tomatic therapy is deplorable and constantly condemned by scientifically practicing physi­cians. Yet many doctors continue depressing the mental acuity of the patient, so that his worries and problems do not come to the sur­face and bother him. This is merely burying the bones of worry, which later will have to be exhumed and cremated by a clearing of the con­science.

In the last analysis, we cannot hide sin. And sin is the cause of psychoneurosis, because sin is the cause of a guilty conscience, or the guilt complex as the psychologist terms it. "Be sure your sin will find you out," is indelibly im­pressed upon the mind of a doctor who sees a psychoneurotic patient. The patient who re­fuses to bring his life into alignment with God's plan ends up with vague and mysterious com­plaints of functional ills. Whether it be a pal­pitating heart, or a peptic ulcer, invariably a transgression of the laws of nature or con­science will be unearthed as the cause.

Not only is the psychoneurotic amenable to therapy by a prudent pastor, but during a period of illness many patients suffering from organic ills have a softness of heart which is fallow ground on which to plant seeds of kind­ness, sympathy, love. The sick patient is the most impressionable, receptive, and likely can­didate for a pastor's guiding.

With this in mind, it would appear that one of the prime functions of the pastor, preacher, or evangelist is in the field of personal coun­seling. However, all too few of our men are trained adequately to render this service. Min­isters should be well versed in the fields of philosophy, psychology, and psychiatry, in order to fit smoothly into the medico-theologi­cal team. They should have the innate ability to guide the patient adroitly into a clear under­standing of himself and his problems, and at the same time carefully channel his thinking toward the church, the new life, and the comfort accruing thereto.

The admonition to be "wise as serpents, and harmless as doves" indicates that doctors of the ministry should be diplomats. Smoothly and gracefully are they to lead their patients grad­ually to the throne, much as a successful ambassador persuasively presents his country to a foreign government. Ministers and doctors should devote more time and study in the art of winning friends and influencing people. They should learn how to lead the patient convincingly to see errors in his way of living, how to guide the patient gently into a full view of his sinful nature in the mirror of the Bible. Once a pastor is emotionally mature himself, and has the knowledge of psychology necessary to sway subtly the thinking of his patient, he is approaching that pinnacle to which all cler­gymen aspire—a true doctor of ministry.

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By J. DEWITT FOX, M.D., Wadsworth General Hospital, Los Angeles, California

October 1948

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